The Marriage Has Broken Up. Who Gets the Pets?
Just like in any other country, marriages sometimes break up. Spouses fight each other long battles to decide how to divide property and who gets custody of the children. But in recent years, courts have had to make other kinds of decisions in connection with divorces, such as: who will the pets, the pets of the family that once existed, stay with? This is told in the online version of the popular publication El Pais.
Until recently, judges, in accordance with tradition, awarded custody of a pet to its officially registered owner. But today, in a country where almost half of the families have pets, a different trend has emerged: decisions are increasingly made, which takes into account the emotional attachment to the animal of both owners, and therefore they are awarded joint custody of the pet.
As Vosseler Abogados, a family lawyer, notes when commenting on such a situation, in some cases courts are assigning visitation days to owners who no longer live with their pet. The topic of pets has increasingly come up in divorce proceedings across the country.
Currently, the Civil Code defines pets as “personal property,” and such a status brings with it certain limitations in terms of custody assignments. However, experts believe that soon there will be changes in this area, similar to those already introduced in France. In this country, animals are not considered property, but living beings with their own feelings. There have already been precedents in the courts where joint custody of a pet has been appointed after a divorce, similar to what is done when families with children are divorced.
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In 2010, Pacu Barrios, a resident, became a celebrity when she applied for a “joint ownership” regime for her and her ex-spouse for their dog, which had lived with the family for nine years. Pacu notes that she had a very difficult time separating from her dog, and her ex-spouse would not allow her to see her pet. The judge decided to order joint pet ownership for the first time in the nation’s history, setting a precedent. Judges can now rely on the notion that a pet is “indivisible” property when deciding similar cases, and therefore each owner can spend half the time with it.
Carlos Franco, who represented Pacu six years ago, notes: nowadays society has become much more sensitive to such issues. Today, pets have figured in divorce proceedings almost along with the children.
The newspaper cited the example of Eva Muñoz, who divorced her husband and got custody of their daughter, she was also awarded alimony – but in the decision of the judge was silent about the dog, which lived in the family for 11 years. At first, the Barcelona court rejected the request of Eva’s husband to award him the right to see the animal. The judge argued that the issue should be decided in another instance.
Several years later, the same court was still forced to recognize that “between the animal and family members established a relationship of affection. Therefore, depriving a family member of the right to see the animal caused the dog to feel “sadness, anxiety, and homesickness.” But the judge noted that since the dog is personal property, the court cannot apply the same rules that apply when establishing a child visitation regime after a divorce.
Eva herself points out that her husband only brought the proceedings to hurt her feelings. Today, Eva says, dogs have often begun to be used as weapons in divorce proceedings, just as children sometimes become for spouses. Of course, a dog is not a child, but neither is it a thing.
It doesn’t take Eva long to prove her sincere affection for her dog: every day for 22 months she’s taken her dog to the vet for procedures necessary to treat the effects of her injury. Not surprisingly, such a deep relationship is increasingly the cause not only of family disputes, but also of lawsuits.